Wednesday, November 14, 2012

From Honeymoon to Hibernation - Stephen Martin, MFT, and Victoria Costello

The first year of marriage is a notoriously difficult one, which is why it's so critical to know what to expect and how to deal with the problems that may arise. The first way to get off to a good start is to dedicate the first six to twelve months of marriage to the two of you, period. Think of it as a period of conscious hibernation away from family, friends, or any unnecessary distractions from the task of relationship-building. Like the grizzly bear in winter who climbs into a cave and stores food and energy for the busy months ahead, you and your partner need to store up on intimacy and communication, the essential building blocks of a long-term committed marriage.

At the end of this first year, your new marriage will be established, although still fragile, and the two of you should continue to treat it that way for another two years. This is true even if you and your partner were “together” several years before marrying. Marriage is different; ask anyone who's ever been married.

Too often newly married couples believe, and act as if, the skills required for a successful marriage come naturally and require no extra effort on their parts to acquire and refine. Not true! This is the time to work the hardest to get your marriage off on the right foot. Many marriages start to fall apart at three years. This is when disillusionment sets in after trial and error fails.



To avoid this outcome, you can read books about developing relationship skills and take couples communication workshops together. Practice what you learn at home. Be conscious of what you're creating. It will be with you for a long time. It's not unlike building the foundation of a house; it's a lot harder when you have to dismantle something first, rather than laying the first bricks and beams on cleared and ready ground. This doesn't mean your first year will not be fabulously fun, too.

The Importance of SexWhat will you do during all of this time alone as a couple? Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you're at all typical you'll have lots of sex. As young (or young at heart) men and women still in the first blush of romantic love, you and your partner have the opportunity to establish a rich and satisfying intimacy. You'll explore each other using all your senses. Ideally, you'll feel safe enough to ask for what you want, sexually and emotionally. Besides the pure ecstatic pleasure of satisfying sexuality, the best thing about all these uninterrupted hours in bed together is the opportunity to let down any walls that were in place when you felt you had to win each other over. If one of you isn't feeling sexually satisfied, broach the subject with your partner early, and gently suggest new things — before anything is set in stone. Within and beyond sexuality, now is the time to begin the lifelong process of being witnesses to each other's joys, sorrows, hopes, and dreams. Now is also the time to build the emotional intimacy that will hold your marriage together when the winds of change bring trouble into your lives.

Keep It Simple

For all the reasons given and more, this is the time to cement your relationship without the huge additional stresses of a newborn child. Unless you are facing a biological clock, or children or stepchildren come with the package, in which case you'll adapt and do your best, your chances of making your marriage work will be exponentially increased if you wait a year or even two before adding a third member to your new household

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